Entries Tagged as 'commentary'

past presidents gather in raleigh, nc

Peter K. O'Connell and Timothy O'Shea Raleigh, NC 2017

Tim O’Shea of Timothy O’Shea Photography was visiting Raleigh Thursday which gave me a chance to visit with my old friend.

Tim and I were both past presidents of the Buffalo Niagara Sales and Marketing Executives, a professional sales association for top marketing and sales folks in Western New York.

This is the first BNSME Past Presidents meeting in Raleigh but hopefully it will not be the last.

There is now an open invitation to all BNSME Past Presidents to call me if they will be in Raleigh and I will let you buy me lunch or dinner or both. Because I am just that generous! 😉

 

twitter screws with your branding again

Peter K. O'Connell Twitter Graphic CHange

You probably didn’t get the memo.

Or if you’re like me (and God help you if you are), you kinda noticed something different on your Twitter profile but ignored it and moved on…until you DID notice it.

Twitter changed the layout of your profile, not a ton but juuuust enough to screw with your branding.

The little profile picture on your Twitter profile, you know, the one the shows up next to every tweet? The size of that got changed last week.

It used to be a square and now it’s a circle.

Big deal, you say? Who cares, you say?

Well maybe it’s not Armageddon, but depending on the size of your profile picture, the image may have gotten cut off, leaving your branding looking a bit sloppier than you may prefer. Prospects look at social media accounts and judge you on your branding. Just like you judge others on their branding.

Now is it a bigger deal for you?

The fix is easy enough (just more unnecessary work). Take your original picture and make it a bit smaller so the rounded edges of the new circle don’t cut off your image.

Then re-upload the pic to Twitter, resize if necessary and save.

Then wait for some body else at Twitter to unnecessarily change something else without letting you know.

Hope this helps.

are you ready?

Are You Ready_VOSome years ago, the singer and Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth was in concert at the Hollywood Bowl. As part of her concert, she evidently pulls up a random audience member to sing one of Chenoweth’s biggest hits, “For Good” from the show Wicked.

On this night, she randomly chose a woman named Sarah Horn. Sarah identified herself as a voice teacher.

Unrehearsed, the orchestra began playing and this happened.

The video was an Internet sensation with millions and millions of views. It was a magnificent, inspiring performance and Chenoweth’s reactions were equally as wonderful.

Some years after that video, Sarah Horn was asked to give a TEDx talk in Riverside, California. Her presentation was entitled “Be Ready: Lessons from the Hollywood Bowl”.

Horn’s message was clear: random as her selection was, she had rehearsed that song before the show…. from a young age, in her bedroom singing to the cast album, literally hundreds of times.

She had rehearsed as a voice teacher, learning about music and the human voice. Because of her deep passion for singing, Horn was constantly preparing, never not rehearsing and always performance ready.

It was, in short, her life’s preparation for that thing that she was so passionate about (her singing) that allowed her to get up in front of that audience at the Hollywood Bowl with a performance that hit it out of the park. She didn’t know when she would get the call, but she was ready when she did.

As a voiceover talent, are you THAT ready?

Have you been working scripts since you were old enough to know what a script was? Have you always consistently experimented with new tones in your voice. If some producer asks “give me a series of 3” can you say “I can give you a series of 33!” and mean it?

Do you even know what “give me a series of 3” means?

It’s those examples and more that most professional voice talents can say yes to…because they ARE ready. Performance ready for almost anything a producer can ask them to do.

In an old biography for myself, I wrote rather unpoetically:

“As a high school student, Peter K. O’Connell garnered strange looks from his parents as they passed by his room when he would practice his announcing skills by reading magazine advertisement copy out loud. While they might have expected to hear a record from Bruce Springsteen, Peter’s parents got Ed McMahon instead.”

That sounds funny but it is a 100% true story. The quizzically look my Mother gave me through my bedroom door one time as I was reading commercial copy from a print magazine was very funny. She didn’t understand why I was ready out loud from a magazine. Was this what my puberty was going to be like, busting out into an open reading of magazine print ads? What will the neighbors say?!!!

But I wanted to be ready.

I’ve worked on voiceover and announcing since high school. At that time, I became brave enough to not be self-conscious about performing (and I was – and still can be – very self-conscious). I worked all the time on my reading, my pronunciation, my sound, my characters, all of it.

I still do.

This is not to brag but merely to serve as an example to those who want to be in voiceover that THIS kind of dedication (almost obsessiveness) IS what it takes to be a professional voice talent.  And to be ready.

To become so practiced, to able to do something so well that, when called upon in the most unprepared of circumstances, your mind, body and spirit instinctively over take any immediate nerves or challenges to allow you to easily do that thing you’ve worked your whole life to perfect. In this case, voiceover.

Voiceover is not about having a nice voice.

It IS an art. It DOES require consistent practice. You MUST be focused. Not because you HAVE to but rather because you WANT to!

That want, that desire, that very NEED to be a voice talent is what will fuel your engines to work so hard and to constantly improve as a voice talent.

Just so, one day, you too will be ready.

is it the marketing or am I just an old fart?

Dick tracy watchAfter what I consider a slow start, I am seeing more and more Apple wrist watches.

These watches are almost what the Dick Tracy comics of yesteryear predicted would be on people’s wrists.

Only better.

And more expensive.

You can check mail, messages, music, your heartbeat and steps and, somewhere in there, you figure out what time it is.

In short, the super cool techie stuff about this wristwatch should mean I should have one by now.

Checklist item #1: It’s a tech gadget and it works with my other tech gadgets

Checklist item #2: It’s an Apple product and I already have a bunch of those so the watch and those devices could work together…ah synergy!

Checklist item #3: Range of pricing means I wouldn’t have to spend a ton to get one

Checklist item #4: I collect wrist watches – I have for years and have all kinds – this item should be right up my alley

And yet I have not purchased the Apple Watch and really haven’t had any desire to do so. None.

So what’s wrong with me?

Well plenty, but for this post let’s just focus on why I don’t feel the need for an Apple Watch.

Watches 1970 2017When I see the Apple Watch, my mind drifts back to the 1970’s and the new (to that time) LED display watches that were all the rage.

These watches looked like ordinary watches except the face was completely black. To see the time you had to use your other hand to press a button on the wrist watch and up would pop an red LED display of the time. Or date. And that’s pretty much it.

These watches were initially selling for hundreds and thousands of dollars and even as a grammar school student I was obsessed with them. I saw those watches and HAD to have one.

Now folks, I need to be clear, the technology in these watches was minimal. What you see today in an LED display was what was in these watches. That. Was. It.

Somebody in China must have made billions off the stupid Americans. More power to them – that’s just good old consumer marketing.

My parents got me a very cheap version of an LED display watch and I thought I was the coolest kid around.

But I realized soon just how stupid this was – now I needed an extra had just to tell time. I couldn’t just look at my wrist, I needed my other hand to reach over to its opposite wrist and press a button. Where is the convenience in that?!

So now, when I see the Apple Wrist Watch, that’s what I think: where the convenience in that?

I’ve already got a phone that does everything the Watch does (and more) on a larger screen. Plus with the watches I have, I don’t have to recharge them like you do with an Apple Watch.

But my demographic profile and socio-economic status says I should want, nay, need an Apple Watch.

Is this this me being an old fuddy-duddy? Or am I being smart?

You’ll have to let me know because, as usual, I have no idea.

3 Steps to Fix Your Twitter (maybe 4)

Fixing Twitter For Voiceover TalentsMaybe Twitter is working just fine for your voiceover business.

More likely, though, you don’t really have a focused business purpose for Twitter.

Twitter is designed to be very customized so even if two voice talents compared their Twitter feeds, likely it would be different…please don’t worry that you are doing it wrong. You’re not.

But you may be able to do Twitter more efficiently.

If you’re just looking at Twitter for fun, you don’t need a plan. But it’s also, in my opinion, kind of a waste of your business day if you spend any time there.

Should you want to use Twitter for a myriad of voiceover business objectives, putting some thought into it will help you make sense of Twitter and make it work for you.

‘But Peter,’ you whine, ‘this sounds like work.’

Yes there’s some work involved. We are talking about Twitter as business tool, you tool!

Relax, though, as I’m going to chart a course for you to help you think all this through.

I’ll also give some examples of what I do so you can either copy some of what I do on Twitter or run fast in the opposite direction…but at least you’ll have a plan!!

Peter K. O'Connell Twitter

  1. Decide what you need Twitter to do for you?

The assumption here is that you want to do more with Twitter than just play. You likely want to have some kind of objective, like:

  • I want to network
    • It could be with prospects, clients or your fellow voice pros
  • I want to be educated
    • I want to learn about industry trends (mine or the business categories I work with most); new technologies, or even social media trends from people smarter than you or me
  • I want to stalk
    • In a business way, not a creepy way – most likely involving prospects or current clients (maybe also your peers) as a way to learn about what topics, trends or observations are important to them — you DO already follow all your clients on social media, right?!

You may want to do one, some or all of these things and that’s OK. You may even want to execute something totally different. But as you look at your current and future Twitter connections, I would advise that you identify and follow your custom objectives with a specific agenda in mind because I think it will help you moving forward

  1. Identify your top Twitter targets

You want to network? OK, but with whom and to what end?

You want to be educated? OK, but what about and with whom do you want to achieve that knowledge?

You want to stalk? Which prospects do you want to follow and what do you want to achieve (awareness, new business, a referral)? Are they specific people or a category of folks?

Just following someone on Twitter is simple. And not likely to move the business or educational needle terribly far.

It would also be wonderful if these folks you followed on Twitter would follow you back, but that’s not a given. They might not initially be interested in you, as people don’t immediately follow back on Twitter like they used to do. Or they might not pay a ton of attention to Twitter. Everybody and company uses social media in different ways.

The point being you should have a kind of mental strategy about what you want to achieve with Twitter targets.

Twitter listsIf you can’t fathom a strategy quite yet, that does NOT mean you should not move forward with Twitter. You can at least get your ‘followers’ list organized and Twitter has a great internal tool for that.

It’s called Twitter Lists. Twitter Lists allow you to create your own lists within your entire list of the people you are following. You can also subscribe to lists created by others.

How is that helpful to you?

Viewing a timeline of just people from a specific list will show you a stream of Tweets only from the Twitter accounts on that list. While there can be some benefit to subscribing to other people’s lists, I personally just focus on lists I have created – occasionally checking other lists to see if I’ve missed somebody in a category.

For example, voice talents are always looking to get on voice talent rosters of audio production companies. How many audio production companies are you already following? How many are following you? (If you’re not sure, check out follow tools like http://unfollowerstats.com/).

My recommendation is that you create a Twitter List of Audio Production Companies and tag all your current connections to that list (a list as big or small a list as you want).

Then figure out what other lists you’d like to curate on your Twitter account (you can have one Twitter connection on more than one list if you like, it’s your list!). Again, this is valuable because with this list, you can see only the Tweets of those on the list. This is a big time saver, a great way to see customized conversations and trends — and all of it leading to the next big fix.

  1. Tweet thoughtfully

For some folks, the idea of Tweeting is truly butt clenching, for fear of not knowing what to say. For some folks, they just type what ever is on their minds (often proving they have nothing to say).

If you have focused on what you want to get out of Twitter (step #1) and from which audience you want to interact with (step #2), step 3 shouldn’t be as challenging and you won’t come off a s a moron (see above folks with “nothing to say”).

Rule #1 on Tweeting thoughtfully is to remember to treat each tweet like you’re speaking to a person…don’t be intimidated by 140 characters…just be you, for lack of a better term. Don’t “act” like an expert, your content will prove your expertise.

Rule #2 is tweet like you would like to be spoke to. For example: what do you like hear?

  • You like to be sincerely complimented
    • You can simply “like” a Tweet by somebody on one of your list (they’ll likely be notified of your like and may check out your Twitter profile – make sure that your profile page is updated and looks nice)
    • You can send someone on your list a compliment on their Tweet – throw something personal in there, more than “nice Tweet” or “thanks”
    • You can share the Tweet with your audience (people whose Tweets get shared usually get notified about that and it may help you get followed back)
  • You like to learn new things
    • If someone on your list has shared something that you really like, say thanks but tell them why it was helpful
    • You might try doing this via “direct message” on Twitter, and a conversation might ensue
  • You like to share things that are interesting to you and that you think others also my find interesting
    • So share what you like – if they don’t like it or aren’t interested, it’s no crime, people will move on and not think worse of you

The bottom line is you MUST offer content (i.e. Tweet) for people to begin to notice you but it’s best not to just Tweet for Tweeting sake – offer a thoughtful content that reflects who you are either professionally or even personally if you’re comfortable doing that

Make Friends First AudioconnellRule #3 would be don’t sell. This is more my rule than anything else but I have not seen one example of someone actually selling via a Tweet and people buying, at least not in voiceover.

At the very least, be indirect. For example: “I’m really excited that my new commercial #voiceover demo is done. If you like, check it out at www.audioconnell.com

When it comes to tone on Twitter (or Social Media or Life) my rule is to at least attempt to talk with people, not at them.

SO now what? What’s the follow up after I do all this?

Well, what you’ve done by creating these lists is you’ve got the start of a database. People you can learn from; connect with and possibly get some business done. So craft a plan to do something with all this information. Like what?

For example, from the aforementioned list of audio production companies, why not go to their Twitter account, click on their web site link and gather some contact data to put in your company database. Then send them a letter, introducing yourself and your information- maybe request to be added to their voiceover roster. Then a few days later, follow up by phone.

Did Twitter just become a lead generation tool for your business? That’s for YOU to decide.

Hope this helps.

2 customer service examples: the wrong way and the right way

Whether you’re a voiceover talent or some other type of independent, small business owner, you likely face the challenge of being a one-person band, spinning multiple plates all at one time. The result is that sometimes some spinning plates drop and break: those plates can represent profits, customers, payables and a whole bunch of other issues that keep you up late at night (no, you’re not the only one who loses sleep over their business sometimes).

After 35+ years as a moderately successful small business owner (and sometimes less than moderately) I’ve realized that most (not all) business problems have to do with day-to-day communication between customer and vendor. It’s hard to keep those lines of communication open for a myriad of reasons, but it’s worse to not keep them open at all.

I’m not talking about marketing – but rather the operational communication business owners have with prospective clients and current clients.

I’m going to share two stories of customer service that I personally experienced this past week that exemplify how to get customer service very wrong and very right. I believe these two examples can help small business owners and especially one-person shops reflect on their current customer service practices and ultimately take better care of their customers.

We, as small business owners, have all been responsible for good and bad customer service – we all have room for improvement.

THE BAD

I had decided last week, after trying some different business card styles and types, that I was going to go back to my previous business card vendor to have new business cards printed with a new design. The company is Designline Graphics, Inc. in Henderson, NV and is also known as 4 Color Print and SilkCards.

The company spent some time and effort to stay in touch with me so I decided to do some new business with them. After this experience, though, I will NOT do business with them again.

I had been in touch with Designline Graphics, Inc./Silkcards about this new card project, got the design squared away, agreed to their price and one morning last week, gave them the go ahead as soon as they would send me a proof to approve. The day I received the proof but before I had approved it, I received an email from Designline Graphics, Inc., (under their Silkcards brand) that offered me a 15% discount on my next order because according to their email, I hadn’t ordered from them in such a long time. They wanted my business!

The timing of the discount seemed good to me so I sent 4colorprint.com the 15% discount email they had sent me and asked them to apply the 15% discount to the order. That’s where the wheels came off of my deal as far as they were concerned.

  • MISTAKE #1 First, they said no to my request to accept their offered discount, as I had already “check-out” in their system (yes, they required me and everyone else <I assume> to pay in advance). Once I ‘checked out’ they couldn’t (or more likely wouldn’t) change the order. They ended their “no” email asking if there was anything else they could do for me. I responded in the email simply: “Sure, cancel the order.”
  •  WHY IT WAS A MISTAKE: Respecting that every business has its rules, it should be noted that I didn’t ask for the email discount to be mailed to me…. Silkcards did that on its own. If it was a mistake for me to receive it (marketing not knowing what’s going in in the sales department), Silkcards needed to own the mistake, show integrity and professionalism by honoring the discount for a past customer. At this point, I had just planned to move on but then I got an email back from Silkcards.
  • MISTAKE #2 After my response to cancel the order, the “Brand Ambassador” for the printing company (with only the name “LC” in the email sig) wrote this very assumptive response: “I understand you are trying cancel the order so that you can place the order again and take advantage of the discount, since your order has been processed and the proof produced and sent out to you this morning, you would only be given an 80% credit on your account which is stated in the Terms and Condition.”
  • WHY IT WAS A MISTAKE: So many mistakes here, where do I start?
    • I was not planning on trying to reorder with the new discount after I cancelled the current order and did not say that was what I was going to do that. But this “Brand Ambassador” immediately assumed I was trying to pull a fast one. The implication that this paid, returning customer (me) was trying to be tricky was at the very LEAST insulting (when did canceling an order indicate a good time to switch on the corporate ‘assumptive insult machine’?)
    • My next thought was ‘why would he/she assume I wanted to cheat them out of something unless that person or the company itself did that out of habit?’ That kind of thinking is not a good reflection on the company
    • Then I realized it wasn’t that they CAN’T honor the discount because of Terms and Conditions, but rather Designline Graphics, Inc. just hid behind that phrase. I believe the true reason they didn’t honor the discount was because they DID NOT WANT TO honor THEIR offered discount…”can’t” and “won’t” reflect two very different business styles
  • MISTAKE #3 I told them quite directly that I had no interest in ordering from them again…but the response email, after I told them that, was to let me know a manager had authorized that they could give me 15% off my next order (?)
    • WHY IT WAS A MISTAKE: The “Brand Ambassador” wasn’t listening to the customer…if this was a brick and mortar business, the customer (me) would be physically leaving the building with my money not spent and they (Designline Graphics, Inc.) would be behind the counter shouting after me, saying ‘we’ll give you 15% off next time’. Oh, but LC, there will not BE a next time.
    • Oh and wait, now there was a MANAGER involved and even the manager didn’t know how to fix this correctly either?! Time for me to run not walk away from Designline Graphics, Inc.

THE GOOD

clocksThis same week, my wife and I were invited to a wedding. Unfortunately because of time commitments, we would not be able to attend the nuptials.

None-the-less, we wanted to give the Canadian couple a wedding gift. I saw that they were registered at Bed, Bath and Beyond in Canada –  while it is the same company as in the US, the order would be processed through their Canadian distribution center. That becomes important to the story, as you will see.

As I went to check out on line, after finding the couple’s wedding registry and picking a gift, I completed the on line billing form on the Bed, Bath & Beyond Canada web site.

However, I ran in to a problem. I plugged in my US billing information and tried to plug in my state as part of that information. But instead of US states coming up, the web form only listed Canadian provinces. And if I didn’t complete this part of the form, I could not check out.

So I cleared the cache on my browser and tried filling out the form again, no luck. So I called the Bed, Bath & Beyond customer service desk and found the wait to speak with a live person was 68 minutes…uh, no.

I then went to their customer complaint form on the web site, outlined my ordering problem, submitted it and got a generic response email that someone would get back to me in something like 48 hours. OK, fine.

The next day, I got a form email from Bed, Bath & Beyond customer service but it was signed by someone name Haley. She said I could try calling customer service and they could help me. I emailed her back, told her I would not be doing that again (68 minutes and all) but if someone from CS wanted to call me, here’s my number and I’d likely be available between the hours I listed in the email.

THE START OF SOMETHING GREAT: Well don’t you know that just at the times I listed in my email, Haley from Bed, Bath & Beyond Customer Service in Canada rings me up! She’s so polite and asks if now is a good time? I said I’ll make time for anybody from customer service who actually calls me back! I wasn’t right at my computer when she called so we spent some time to find the couple’s registry again and the item I wanted to buy, she took my billing information and processed the order.

I made it abundantly clear to Haley how she saved this sale. I was perfectly content to go another route for the wedding gift but because of HER follow up, she saved the order for Bed, Bath & Beyond Canada. I was profuse in my praise of her to her and after we hung up, I got on Twitter and further fussed, making sure the company knew exactly how this one customer service person saved the sale. The company responded to my tweet and we direct messaged each other to make sure that Haley WILL be recognized by the Bed, Bath & Beyond for going above and beyond (in my opinion) with exemplary customer service.

SUMMARY

These are two very different companies and not just regarding my customer service experiences with them.

The helpful company, Bed, Bath and Beyond, is an international organization with over 1500 locations, tens of thousands of employees and billions of dollars in revenue.

Designline Graphics, Inc. has likely 50 employees at most with one office in Nevada, as far as I could tell.

Also, I’m sure that there are customers who have had good customer service experiences with Designline Graphics, Inc. and bad customer experiences with Bed, Bath and Beyond. My experiences, like my opinions, are just that: mine.

I would have expected that the multi-billion dollar company might have had the lesser follow up than the smaller company. But in truth, the smaller company – which I would have expected to be more nimble and responsive – was the company that chose to hid behind policies rather than simply serve the customer.

I got more personalized, responsive customer service from Bed, Bath and Beyond, the big guys. I was amazed because in my experience that is not usually the case with bigger companies.

Reality check: profits and operations are tougher to manage for smaller companies. It’s tougher to get, keep and train good employees because often one or two owners at a small company are pulled in too many directions to always properly focus on training new or current employees. I truly respect that challenge.

And policies are in place because one has to protect their business. I get that too.

But if there was a universal small business handbook, right after it talked about making a quality product or service that people need or want to buy and then marketing it well, the next critical point in that book should be about how to handle any and all customer service situations.

And while the lawyers would want a business owner to stand behind policies and procedures (and indeed in a few cases you must), I think it can become a lazy crutch. A true business owner knows that common sense is often the best rule in dealing with a customer problem. A sincere business owner makes sure that message is drilled into the employees.

With these two examples shared, I hope you use better common sense next time an issue comes up for your business.